The Creation of Patriarchy [La creación del patriarcado] – The Creation of Feminist Consciousness

Gerda Lerner | The Creation of Patriarchy [La creación del patriarcado] – The Creation of Feminist Consciousness

The Creation of Patriarchy (Vol. 1) is a radical reconceptualization of Western civilization that makes gender central to its analysis. Gerda Lerner argues that male dominance over women is not “natural” or biological, but the product of an historical development begun in the second millennium B.C. in the Ancient Near East. As patriarchy as a system of organizing society was established historically, she contends, it can also be ended by the historical process.

Focusing on the contradiction between women’s central role in creating society and their marginality in the meaning-giving process of definition and interpretation, Lerner explores such fascinating questions as: What can account for women’s exclusion from the historical process? What could explain the long delay–more than 3,500 years–in women’s coming to consciousness of their own subordinate position? She goes back to the cultures of the earliest known civilizations–those of the ancient Near East–to discover the origins of the major gender metaphors of Western civilization. Using historical, literary, archaeological, and artistic evidence, she then traces the development of these ideas, symbols, and metaphors and their incorporation into Western civilization as the basis of patriarchal gender relations.


 

In The Creation of Feminist Consciousness (Vol. 2) , the eagerly awaited concluding volume of Women and History, Lerner documents the twelve-hundred-year struggle of women to free their minds from patriarchal thought, to create Women’s History, and to achieve a feminist consciousness. In a richly documented narrative filled with inspiring portraits of women, Lerner ranges from the Middle Ages to the late 19th century, tracing several important ways by which women strove for autonomy and equality. One of the most remarkable sections examines over twelve hundred years of feminist Bible criticism. Since objections to women’s thinking, teaching, and speaking in public were based on biblical authority–most notably, passages from Genesis and the writings of St. Paul–women returned again and again to these texts, in an attempt to subvert patriarchal dominance and establish their equality with men. This survey of biblical criticism allows Lerner to illustrate her most important insight–the discontinuity of women’s history. She describes how women’s history was not passed on from generation to generation, forcing women in effect to reinvent the wheel over and over again. In a series of fascinating portraits of individual women who resisted patriarchal indoctrination, Lerner discusses women mystics such as Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich and later Protestant mystics, and brings to life the many women of great literary talent, from Christine de Pisan to Louise Labe to Emily Dickinson, who simply bypassed patriarchal thought and created alternate worlds for themselves.
Documenting the 1,200 year struggle of women to free their minds from patriarchal thought, create a women’s history, and achieve a feminist consciousness, this brilliant work charts new ground for feminist theory, the history of ideas, and the development of women’s place in our intellectual tradition.

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